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October/November 2011

Diversity/Careers October/November 2011 Issue




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Managing

Kakali Banerjee is a VP at SRA International

Her group manages blanket purchase agreements for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State and the foreign affairs community


Kakali Banerjee got her first job not from a recruiter, but from the recruiter's wife.

"After I received my degree, my interest was in pure math and theory," she remembers. "I interviewed with a recruiter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and told him that I wanted to see the world." He told her she should talk to his wife, who worked for the U.S. Census Bureau in its International Statistical Program Center.

Four months later Banerjee was off to Africa as a mathematician for the Census Bureau, supporting international and domestic census and survey programs and working in Africa and India to establish census data processing centers.

Today she is VP and business program manager for international development and diplomatic solutions programs for SRA International, Inc (Fairfax, VA). SRA offers project management, network engineering, management and security and many other services including analysis and implementation of emerging technologies.

Banerjee's group provides oversight and management of multiple blanket purchase agreements for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State and the foreign affairs community.

Banerjee was born in Calcutta, India and came to the U.S. with her family as a child when her father won a green card lottery. They settled in Virginia and Banerjee got her BS from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

She went on to a 1992 MS in software systems engineering from George Mason University (Fairfax, VA), then joined Perot Systems, later acquired by Dell, working with large customer databases. She joined SRA International in 1994 as an IT consultant.

Database challenges
At SRA Banerjee took on challenging responsibilities related to database systems development and deployment and mainframe architecture. Her last seven years have been spent in foreign affairs, managing programs and activities for clients with international relationships, including the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Peace Corps, the World Bank and the United Nations.

"It's not unusual at SRA to start in a very specific technical area and grow into more diverse areas of responsibility," Banerjee explains. "My clients are very large organizations, mostly government agencies, with a presence all around the globe. Their systems have to be ready for the next generation of technology, and they need to balance their international solutions with a reasonable budget."

A typical week
A typical week on the job is part operational, part growing the business and part taking care of people, she says. "I touch base with my customers, especially the large ones, and communicate with project managers, usually by telephone or e-mail."

She also reports regularly to top management and SRA's board of directors regarding the state of businesses and financials.

Growing her team
In the health and civil sectors at SRA she works with about 200 people and has six account and project managers reporting to her directly. "My team knows I'm serious about growth and dedication to our customers," she says. "I'm a fairly open person with an empowering management style, so I let people do their part and help them get to where they want to go."

Being a woman in the IT field has had a "net zero" effect on her career, Banerjee believes. "Even today I may look around the table and notice that I am one of only a few women there. But throughout my career things have been so fast paced with so many opportunities that it hasn't been a hindrance. I devote my energy to learning and growing."

Banerjee is a member of SRA's Women in Technology group, comprised of women leaders dedicated to mentoring and encouraging networking. She also works with college hires and interns.

Family time
Her job is demanding, so outside of work Banerjee spends as much time as she can with her family, including two teenage daughters.

"They see technology as a given," she says with amusement. "They've always had the Internet. At breakfast on Sunday mornings they Skype with their grandparents in India. Technology is like electricity to them: it's always there."

D/C



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